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Jewish groups express horror at Quebec City mosque shooting

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Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec
Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec. GOOGLE STREET VIEW

Jewish groups in Canada and the United States were swift in their condemnation and expression of solidarity with the Muslim community after the shooting at a Quebec City mosque Jan. 29, which left six men gathered for evening prayers dead, five critically wounded, and others injured.

“The Jewish community is horrified by the murderous shooting at the [Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec],” said Rabbi Reuben Poupko, Quebec co-chair for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) in a statement issued in the immediate aftermath of the attack. “Nothing justifies the murder of innocent civilians assembled in a place of worship. Our thoughts are with the victims and their relatives, as well as our fellow Muslim citizens.”

He later told The CJN that CIJA was urging Jews to attend the vigils for the victims taking place in Montreal and other Canadian cities on Jan. 30.

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“We stand together with our Muslim brothers and sisters in their grief and outrage. This is an attack on Quebecers and the pluralism and diversity that characterizes our society.”

B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn condemned the attack “the strongest terms” and sent condolences to the families of the victims.

“As a community that is often the target of hatred ourselves, we stand in solidarity with the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec,” Mostyn said.

“We can not stand idly by and allow horrifying attacks like this one to occur. We all have a role to play in denouncing bigotry, hatred, and prejudice.”

Alexandre Bissonnette, 27, a Université Laval student from suburban Quebec City, was arrested on the night of the shooting and was charged on Jan. 30 with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder using a restricted firearm.

Police are investigating the shooting as an act of terrorism, and it was characterized as such by both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Philippe Couillard.

Previously unknown to police, Bissonnette is being described in the media as having shown sympathy for the political right and holding anti-immigrant, anti-feminist views. On his Facebook page, since taken down, it was reported that among his “likes” was the Israel Defence Forces, as well as U.S. President Donald Trump and French far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

The Montreal Holocaust Museum issued a statement expressing solidarity with Quebec’s Muslim community.

“An attack against people gathered in peaceful prayer is an islamophobic assault that concerns all of us. We express our deepest sympathy to the families of the victims, people of the Muslim faith and all Quebecers. The murder of innocent people because of their faith is an assault on values which we hold dear, including freedom of religion and religious expression, the equal rights and protection of minorities, and particularly the sanctity of human life,” the museum said

“The attack on the Islamic Cultural Centre of Québec is a line in the sand. This attack has been perpetrated in a context in which it has become legitimate to spread bigotry and hate, a world which targets minorities and normalises an ‘us and them’ mentality.”

World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder also condemned the attack, which is being treated by police as an act of terrorism.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Islamic community and with the people of Canada, and we hope those who perpetrated this abhorrent act of mass murder will be brought to justice,” Lauder said in a statement.

“We must defend each other and we must look after one another – one religious community after the other, one country after the other. The scourge of terrorism won’t be defeated unless we are united in our resolve to defeat it.”

Israeli president Reuvin Rivlin tweeted: “Thoughts & prayers with the Canadian people after the horrific attack on a house of worship in Quebec.”

The Toronto-based Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre (FSWC) also condemned the shooting.

“This tragic act of terror must be a wake-up call for all Canadians to recognize where hate and intolerance can lead,” said FSWC president and CEO Avi Benlolo. “The pursuit of justice includes strengthening our laws against hate speech and hateful acts – such as leaving a pig’s head outside a mosque – intended to intimidate and threaten individuals and communities.”

Benlolo was referring to a gift-wrapped severed pig’s head that was left on the doorstep of the attacked mosque last June, during Ramadan, along with the note “Bon appétit.”

Toronto-area Liberal MP Michael Levitt stated: “As a Canadian Jew, I join with the many Jewish voices… in speaking out in condemnation of this brutal terror attack, targeting Muslims at prayer in Quebec City.

“I stand with the Muslim community in the aftermath of this horrific and evil act and will continue to speak out against acts of hate, prejudice and intolerance wherever they may rear their ugly head.”

Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather tweeted: “Horrified by shootings at Quebec mosque. My prayers are with the victims and their families.”

David Birnbaum, MNA for D’Arcy McGee, commented: “The immense sadness and solidarity we share in the face of [this] senseless tragedy cannot bring back the lives of six fathers, friends and community leaders. What it can do is remind us and signal to the entire world that we Quebecers, like all Canadians, stand together determined to face down and overcome any and all threats to our democracy, our faith and our respect for diversity.”

Both the interdenominational Canadian Rabbinic Caucus and the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the leading organization of Orthodox rabbis in North America, joined the condemnation.

“Such acts of hate have no place in our country,” stated the caucus, while the RCA commented that, “as a people which has suffered discrimination and persecution because of our own religious beliefs and identity, we are acutely aware of the dangerous consequences of hatred.”

Rabbi Michael Whitman, an RCA executive committee member and spiritual leader of Montreal’s Congregation Adath Israel, added that the Montreal Jewish community “stand(s) today with our Muslim brothers and sisters to condemn this hateful attack and celebrate the respect we share.”

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